Thomas Schütte


These glazed-ceramic faces by Thomas Schütte are confusing and upsetting at the same time, since the last thing one would have expected from this artist are works that dignify humankind. Schütte is known more as a representative of the so-called “furniture builders” who were held in opposition to figurative artists by critics in the ’80s. But, as is frequently the case in contemporary art history, and as Schütte demonstrates in this new body of work, critics often use art to fulfill their own ambitions.

The human figure has always been an important aspect of Schütte’s work, but this aspect did not always fit with the agenda of those presenting the work, and for this reason it was often pushed aside. This exhibition (along with the one he is preparing for the Hamburg Kunsthalle, which will be dedicated to the human form) is an important breakthrough.

These faces possess an unexpected dignity. In their directness they do not release the viewer, but rather push him. Humility is united with sublimity: the furrowed faces evince an immovable, proud attitude; however, their dignity is not liberating. On the contrary, they force us to feel responsible for them, and that means feeling responsible for ourselves. This challenge is what separates these works from other figurative works being made today.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.